At 100 years old, Klaus Obermeyer still a big part of the ski industry
Iconic ski industry visionary honored at the Outdoor Retailer Snow Show
Editor’s note: This is part one of a seven-part series on the latest and greatest finds at the Outdoor Retailer and Snowsports Industries America Snow Show, which takes place in Denver each January. This trade show represents suppliers of consumer outdoor sports with constituents in the retailer, rep and resort communities.
What does your 100-year-old future self look like? If it’s anything like ski industry icon Klaus Obermeyer, you will still be working, exercising and laughing.
Obermeyer mans the front of the large booth that bears his namesake, just as he has for the past several decades. (He has not missed a ski industry trade show since 1960.) He is somewhat of a pop star, taking selfies, shaking hands, kissing babies and laughing — a lot. His spirit is contagious, and the ski world is lucky to have an innovator like him. And the world, in general, is lucky to have such an inspiration.
Obermeyer was born in Oberstaufen, Germany, on Dec. 2, 1919. An aeronautical engineer by education, Klaus came to the U.S. when he was 27 years old. He hitchhiked to Sun Valley, Idaho, where he met ski filmmaker Warren Miller before settling into Aspen, where he became a ski instructor.
“In order to guarantee you’d have clients the next day, you’d have to keep them happy and warm today,” recalls Obermeyer, who actually fashioned a parka out of a down comforter his mother gave him when she heard he was moving to North America. “My mother thought, ‘It must be cold in North America’ — with the emphasis on the word ‘North,’” Obermeyer said.
His engineering background allowed him to work with companies that had never made certain items before. Many people think that Obermeyer manufactured only ski clothing, but his innovations go beyond that. He was instrumental in developing high Alpine sunscreen, two-pronged ski brakes, zip turtlenecks, nylon wind shirts, mirrored sunglasses and lighter-weight ski poles.
Speaking with Obermeyer today, this trailblazer is still thinking of the future and what’s best for the sport. For the 2019-2020 outerwear line, expect to find forward-thinking styles and a few throwback looks. When you have more than 70 years of catalogs to pull from, some classic styles resurface but with modern fabrics and signature technologies such as HydroBlock lamination, Control Zone Ventilation, Elastane 4-Way Stretch and body-mapped insulation.
This year, Obermeyer was honored at a luncheon at the Snow Show for the impact he has had on the industry. He was given an ornate, oversized cowbell, to which he responded, “I guess now I’ll have to get a cow.” We could all learn a lot from this centenarian who still has an optimistic outlook on life.